The pituitary gland has been found to be an important factor in mammary development in primates. Hypophysectomy in 12 sexually immature monkeys caused significant inhibition of estradiol (E2)-induced mammary growth and development. A histological index of mammary development in sexually immature hypophysectomized animals was lower (0.82) than in intact E2-treated controls (3.4; P less than 0.008). Hypophysectomy also inhibited growth of the mammary gland as judged by a size index. Despite the hypophysectomy, E2 stimulated some, albeit blunted, mammary growth and development, which may have been due to incomplete hypophysectomy. Selective inhibition of prolactin by ergot drugs in intact animals did not prevent full mammary development, suggesting that there may be pituitary mammogens other than prolactin, or that very low or unmeasurable concentrations of prolactin were sufficient to synergize with E2 to cause full acinar development. The mean histological index was 3.08 in E2-treated animals and 3.16 in animals treated with E2 plus pergolide. There was also no difference in the size of the glands. We evaluated the effect of growth hormone on mammary development by treating three hypophysectomized animals with pure 22,000 mol wt human growth hormone (hGH) (Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, CA). We found that physiological or slightly supraphysiological concentrations of hGH in animals with unmeasurable prolactin were incapable of restoring the capacity of E2 to induce full mammary growth. These findings suggest that, if growth hormone is a mammary mitogen, that physiological concentrations are insufficient to synergize with E2 to induce full mammary growth or that other forms of hGH are mammogenic. Our studies suggest that the role of the pituitary gland in mammary mitogenesis in primates is more complicated than previously thought. They also raise the possibility that heretofore unidentified pituitary substances may be mammogenic.